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It’s never too late to become a life-long learner

It was while reading Tsh’s piece about family purpose statements a few years ago I realized I had relegated learning primarily to the classroom.  It registered as a sharp, stinging jolt to my personal sensibilities.  Without meaning to, I had halted the intentional learning process.

Through the years that post has haunted me for that and other reasons, in part because ours is not the family who does such things (draft a family purpose statement).

While I do parent with great intention, I’ve lacked the wherewithal to convince my non-blogging husband and children to do this.

Come to think of it, I may have only mentioned it back then, presuming they’d rather eat pinecones than join me in the challenge.

On one hand I feel like a failure for not having a family purpose statement – for not even trying.  But on the bigger hand, I want to assure those of you who are like me (those who don’t follow through with every internet idea, even the great ones), that you’re parenting your family just fine.

If you’re doing the best you know how to do, if you’re leading your family with practices and principals seeped in faith and morality, if you’re loving your babies for who they are and not who you wish they were, you’re their perfect mama (or daddy).  Not perfect as in without flaw, but perfect as in fit and complement.

It was that lifelong learning thing that hung me up on Tsh’s post; most of the other values and goals were consistent with who we were and how we behaved, both as individuals and family unit.

Certainly, you never stop learning altogether–life has that way of shaping you through the daily grind, relationships and countless exterior pressures.

But learning about someone or something different on purpose, mastering a new skill or studying an unfamiliar subject all require careful intention and planning.

Life-long Learning Quote - Image by Robin Dance

There’s little doubt the time and effort are a worthwhile investment.

Sometimes stage of life or circumstances mean you can’t tackle learning a lot of things or complex lessons, but I’m not talking quantity; in this sense, quality matters.

It’s not a matter of conquering a “learning list”, blowing and going, breadth over depth; this is about enjoying the process and acquiring new knowledge or skills for the sheer delight in learning.  Likely, the benefits will extend beyond sheer enjoyment.

As both a means to hold myself accountable and to encourage you, I’ve shared a few things I’d like to learn this year, many of which will no doubt make you feel better about yourself because “everyone else” already knows how to do the simple things I don’t.

I genuinely hope my post “haunts” you–not in a negative sense at all but by challenging and motivating all of us to keep our brains active on purpose.

I’d love for you to consider the benefits of life-long learning and read my list and teach me what you know about any of the subjects.  I’m equally curious what you’d like to learn in the coming year.

This isn’t about making resolutions you’ll likely break; it’s about tending your mind, taking care of yourself, and modeling an important concept for your children and others in your sphere.

Is intentional, life-long learning a new or familiar concept to you?  If familiar, please share your experience and practices.  If new, share one thing you’d like to learn by the time 2014 comes to an end.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Shelley

    Dressmaking is the thing I’ve wanted to learn for so long. I can do a bit, but haven’t made something wearable in decades. I’ve taken a class (disappointing) and found friends who share this interest (great support!) and of course I read a million blogs and buy whole libraries on the subject. My aim for this year is to DO it, not read about it. I have tried knitting socks in the past and did better than I thought, but no finished article as yet. I’m now part of a knitting group and can get help with those tough bits I don’t understand. I’d like to make decent biscuits (American style, not British). Mine all turn out flat. I’d like to be more confident selling on eBay.

    • Robin Dance

      It’s kinda crazy, but hearing you name all those things makes me want to do them, too…ha! Power of suggestion? I want you to let me know when you finish any one of these things–I’m cheering you from the sidelines!! 🙂

  2. Steph

    We finally made a family mission statement this year after talking about it for over two years…life-long learning is on the list. For me, life-long learning is a pretty organic process. I wanted to start blogging so my writing started to improve but I also learned things I wouldn’t normally care about (i.e. simple html). I was so proud the first time I fixed my website by myself through some internet research. It feels good knowing we can expand our horizons and learn something new.

    • Robin Dance


      I can’t help but appreciate your latest post: Lessons in Self-Care :). Lifelong learning IS part of that, yes?

      And good for y’all on the family mission statement. It’s a great idea and I’m sure serves those who give thought and intent to one :).

  3. Betsy

    I like your post maybe because I an easily relate. At 49, all of a sudden I have just a bit more time for learning and investing in myself. I fell into the idea of “life-long learning” by accident, through home schooling. Now that my kids are in high school, although it’s a discipline (and some days a drudge) I have the joy of learning so many new things: from inverse trigonometric fuctions to political science. My love for learning probably enables me to hang in there with home schooling overseas, where there is no outside help. So I look on the bright side and decide to enjoy learning myself.

    I try to be intentional about investing time in “me-learning” too. This year I want to learn more about writing and blogging, so I will join an on-line writing group. I also want to learn more about cooking and take up knitting this winter. I liked your list on your blog.

    • Robin Dance

      Ahhh, Betsy, thank you for visiting my post :).

      Sometimes I feel like a “jack of all trades, master of nothing”; I’d like that to evolve to “jack of some trades, master of something” :).

  4. Gina :: Listening in the Litany

    It’s definitely helpful for me to view learning as a lifestyle, rather than a list to be checked off. One thing at the top of my list for 2014 is to learn more efficient methods of caring for our home. Time management and discipline are not my strengths so I’m having to be intentional about seeking out resources that will equip me with the tools I need to manage our mayhem on a daily basis. I’m only 2 weeks into this process and already reaping HUGE rewards on my investment. I think sometimes, as moms, setting aside time to learn can seem almost selfish, but I’m learning that it’s actually the opposite. It’s blessing my family and simplifying life at home.

    • Robin Dance

      “setting aside time to learn can seem almost selfish, but I’m learning that it’s actually the opposite.”

      Amen, my friend–Aaaaa-men!

  5. Kay

    I work in a public library so life long learning has always been something I participated in. I love learning new things and am always surrounded by books to help me. I love how the internet also adds an easy availability to information as long as you know how to pick and choose. We’re teaching arm knitting to a group of teens in a few weeks solely using youtube videos. I’ve learned a lot about many technology things at Things on my list for 2014 – kumihimo jewelry, learning some basic coding, and some quantified self heath tracking along with becoming a Twitter master.

    • Robin Dance


      I don’t even know what kumihimo jewelry is! Or arm knitting for that matter (lol, I’ll have to google both and I’m SURE I’ll find the info!).

      You seem to have a manageable list; I’ll be curious to hear how satisfied you are with your progress down the road.

  6. Kate

    I love your take on this, and absolutely love the idea of life-long learning. As an elementary educator (staying home now), it’s a concept I’m definitely familiar with…it’s just ingrained in me, I guess to continue refining my practice professionally, but also on a more personal side too.

    This year, I’m find myself diving into books focused on the outdoors and nature with children (ex. Last Child in the Woods) and I really want to try and learn to do stand-up paddle boarding!

    Thank you for the post & thank you for sharing your list!

    • Robin Dance


      Thank YOU for your encouragement. We’ve spent the last ten years living in a place that is very outdoors-oriented–hiking, rock climbing, repelling (indoors and out), and yes, paddle boarding. That’s one thing I’ve never tried but I *think* it would make for excellent core strength. Let me know if you learn how :).

  7. Judy

    When I turned 40 a few years back I felt the strong need to learn something new every year. Didn’t have to be a major project, just something that would challenge me. So Age 40 – learned how to surf. Age 41 – learned how to tile and renovate 2 bathrooms and a few other power tool related projects I had never considered doing. Age 42 – ??? haven’t come up with this year’s yet. And it helps that I have a great best friend who is always willing to jump in and tackle these crazy ideas with me and travels 12 hours to do it! 🙂

    • Robin Dance


      You make a great point: it’s MUCH easier to commit to this new learning business with a partner in crime. That might be my #1 goal for the new year–find a wingman :).

      GREAT to hear how intentional you’ve been each year, too.

  8. Elizabeth | Ready. Set. Simplify.

    I have considered myself a life-long learner for a long time. Maybe because I’m curious and probably because I’m a teacher. I can’t remember where the term life-long learner came from, but I remember using it in the mid 90’s. I love to learn new things.

    I wouldn’t say I have a specific process, really, and it’s often spur-of-the-moment. What’s the best way to get ink out of jeans? I wanted/needed to know, so I looked it up. I’m homeschooling one of my children for the first time this year, and so that has tons of opportunities for learning. Yesterday at dinner I learned who Carl Linnaeus was (from my son). He was shocked that I didn’t already know!

    I think your list is great, by the way! I would like to learn some of the same things. I need geography help, too!

    • Elizabeth | Ready. Set. Simplify.

      Ok, I looked it up: The term life-long learners was “created by Leslie Watkins and used by Professor Clint Taylor (CSULA) and Superintendent for the Temple City Unified School District’s mission statement in 1993.”
      -quote from Wikipedia


      • Robin Dance

        And with that, you continue your role as a teacher :).

        I think the more we TRY to learn new things, the more we will, yes? 🙂

  9. Caroline Starr Rose

    This is a huge part of why I write historical fiction. I get to pick my topics and create my own “course.” I dig as deep and wide as I need to for as long as I’d like. It really is a wonderful thing!

    • Robin Dance


      That’s kinda brilliant :). Win-win!

  10. Dee

    I would like to learn more about that fabulous picture! What can you tell me about that space with all the books? Can I see the pic without the text? I want to be there!

    • Robin Dance

      Hey Dee!

      It was at an Anthropologie in Atlanta, of all places! You can search my instagram stream to find it (@PensieveRobin). 🙂

    • Robin Dance


  11. Nina

    Don’t feel bad; I’m not a mission-statement writing mom either. I don’t knock it; people do what works for them, just as I’m sure I do things other people wouldn’t consider.

    And I love how you are constantly learning new things! For me, I haven’t actually made a list, but I do note that I usually try to learn skills pertaining to my job, or to keep up with my dancing, or to read the FOUR books I have on my night stand. Things to keep me sharp and engaged.

  12. Sarah Westphal

    Does it indicate anything that I put off reading this article until now? Life-long learning. *sigh* I am a really incurious, lazy, person. Period. So I really don’t keep camp with the intentional life-long learning group and put off reading this article as I had that life-long learning thing nag at me too from Tsh’s book. However, I have noticed that I am learning. Just not intentionally. I wanted/needed to brush up on my French, so I have French magazines being delivered now. When I am passionate about something I will read and read and read up on it. So I guess that’s learning, right? Thanks for the post!

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